Five Self-Care "Do's" from a Brave New Experience

Now...today.  It’s busy, right?  How do we get it all done?  During these packed days, I’m a big fan of the work philosophy, “How easy can it be?”  

I’m choosing to make today easier for me as I satisfy two reader requests with this one post.  A while back, a reader asked me to reframe a “self-care don’t’s” list to be more positive.  I’ve also been asked to share more about my experience last weekend at Nomadico, a local Burning-Man-like event I attended.

So in the spirit of true multi-tasking, and in the hopes that this leads to greater creativity, here goes…

Self-care Do’s from a Burning Man Life Philosophy:

Do learn to say “yes” (especially when it scares you!).

I’d heard about Burning Man (the big one that’s held every August in Nevada, and the local weekend ones, too) for years and always been curious.  A few people I admire go religiously, and I saw their glow upon returning.  

I knew it would be transformational for me to go, but I was scared because I don’t like camping (especially in the more extreme elements), I get socially anxious in new environments where I don’t know many people, and when I feel anxious in these environments, I tend to indulge in substances that further un-ground me, making me more anxious.  I’ve had some really challenging moments of in these festival-like weekends.

Yet, I was still so curious.  So when my friend Darrell told me this would be a good first event to attend, I decided to take a risk.  I signed up and then felt nervous right away.  Was I really going to do this?

Self-care take away:  You may feel like you’ve screwed up on self-care before.  This doesn’t mean that it can’t be completely different in the future.  When you feel the desire to deepen your self-care, you have to take a risk and try something new.  It will bring up fear, but often, that fear is an indicator something awesome will happen.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.
 

Do ask for help (and accept it when it comes).

The day before the event, I borrowed a tent from my friend, Michele, and hoped I would remember how to set it up.  When I arrived, my survival instincts kicked in.  Would I be able to set up my tent by myself before it got dark?  What if I couldn’t find Darrell?  Had I brought enough food?  I talked to a few people at the welcome station who looked very relaxed and felt like I was trying to hard.   

When I walked back to my car to gather my camping gear, I said a little prayer of surrender.  I asked the universe to take care of me by showing me I was supported.  Two minutes later I ran into my lovely friend Katie, who had just arrived with her friends.  

Later, while setting up the tent, a nice person came over and asked if I needed help.  She helped me construct the criss-crossed structure of poles, and stake the rain cover.  Inside the tent, I rolled out my sleeping back and laid down for a moment.  

Breathing and relaxing, I realized I would continue to be taken care of as long as I kept accepting support.  

Self-care take away:  It’s ok to admit that you don’t always know how to take care of yourself, and it’s totally ok to ask for support.  Once the support comes, please know you are worthy of receiving it.  All you have to do is say,  “Yes, thank you!”  Asking someone to help you during a vulnerable moment doesn’t mean you are weak (It means quite the opposite, actually).
 

Do share yourself fully.

The Burning Man philosophy of a gifting economy had always appealed to me.  Since I needed to meet people anyway, I decided to try it out right away. I took the majority of the food I brought--a huge pack of coconut-date rolls--and wandered around the camp, offering them to everyone I saw.

You could say I was buying friendship with these little sweet treats, but I saw it more as generating the energy I wanted to experience over the next two days.  Whatever the motivation, it worked.  Every time someone accepted a date roll, I felt happy--giddy, almost.  The generosity made me feel like I could truly be myself.  I relaxed even more, and realized I was already having fun.

Self-care take away:  We use self-care not to change ourselves or become someone else, but to figure out what brings us joy.  Once we know that, we can build our lives from that joy.  This is the difference between self-care and self-improvement.  Self-improvement says we have to change ourselves.  Self-care says we just need to enjoy our lives.  Personally, I will always choose self-care.

 

Do be part of inclusive groups.

Looking around, I saw that everyone else was having fun, too.  They were laughing, talking, cooking together, making art, dancing wildly in a field by themselves.  No one was judging anyone else, or trying to outdo each other or was really stressed about anything.  

Radical inclusivity is another tenant of Burning Man philosophy.  It occurred to me what a happier world we would live in if everyone felt like they could be themselves without being judged.  All of that energy that goes into people-pleasing can be converted into making beautiful things and just having a good time.  So simple, right?

Personally, I loved all the quirky people I was meeting, as well as the quirkiness I saw emerging in myself.  I got into a long discussion with a curly-haired, energetic man about the origin of words, and how this relates to self-care.  The next conversation was just as strange and good. I was in heaven.  

Self-care take away:  The major strength of the self-care work I offer is the community of awesome women supporting each other through the process.  Working together on our self-care, we learn that although our lives look different, we have a lot in common.  We see how much we can gain from each other, and how embracing this diversity helps us all make a deeper breakthrough. Everyone is welcome and valuable. In this space, we know we truly belong, and so our truest selves emerge naturally.
 

Do trust the process.

The rest of the weekend I simply wandering from one lovely thing to another.  When I got cold, I sat by the fire and talked to people.  When I wanted to dance, I moved closer to the DJs.  When I was tired, I went off to my tent and rested.  Nothing felt any better than anything else, and realizing this helped me let go even further into the experience.

In my life I’ve struggled a lot with equanimity.  I have all these preferences about what I “should” be doing, and often find myself wanting to escape the present moment to get to what I “want” even more.  These preferences make me suffer because I’m never as present as I want to be with myself or with anyone else.  In the pursuit of making my life “better,” I miss so many awesome things.

More than anything else, I am most fascinated by the Burning Man value of honoring present moment emergence.  It asks us to trade our preferences for curiosity about what is happening right now.  It offers us one amazing experience after another, and teaches us to fully let  go of each one so we can welcome the next.  It shows us that we can really trust in this process, and also how that trust deepens our engagement and enjoyment.

On Sunday, when I took down my tent, I was sad.  I had met some beautiful people and shared in a creative, welcoming environment for a few sweet days.  Now that I felt comfortable in this brave, new world, I had to return to my normal life.  Yet I had learned that if I could release it completely, the next amazing experience would come through soon enough.

Deeper than that, I felt that my spirit was touched and my ego was transformed in an important way.  The experience was gone, but I would take the lessons with me, living them out in my day-to-day existence.

I drove home in the afterglow of it all, with mud caked on my shoes and a big smile on my face.  I felt grateful for my life, and for how it keeps expanding so widely and bravely and in directions that always surprise me yet are consistently just right.  

Self-care take away:  When entering one of my self-care programs, most of my clients say they are “stuck” in their lives.  As we work on our habits, we peel back the layers of resistance to see what is underneath the stuckness.  Almost always, we find grief.  We are still waiting for our happy childhood, mourning the loss of a parent, or wishing we would have shown up differently in a relationship.  Rather than stuff these feelings down, we go straight through them.  We feel them together by crying and laughing and giving ourselves space to heal.  From there, the change is assured.  Self-care habits transform themselves.  We move forward, leaving the stuck-ness behind and trusting ourselves to navigate the beauty of our futures.